BABY, IT’S YOU (1983) is one of John Sayles’ few movies directed in the studio system (I suspect if he’d done a 1960s retro piece as an indie, we’d have seen more politics) with Roseanne Arquette as a high-school drama student who falls for swaggering blue-collar Vince Spano, only to have their lives founder post-graduation when things don’t go as planned. Well-executed and well-acted, and the character and romance arcs don’t go where I expected, but I still don’t find it entirely satisfying—and having Spano kidnap Arquette at one point isn’t as romantic as they meant it to be. Tracy Pollan plays Arquette’s college buddy. “The guys around here dress like shit.”
56 UP (2013) is the latest in a long series of British films following 14 kids’ lives at seven years old, then 14 Up, 21 Up, etc. I’m a big fan (partly because I’m one year younger than them and English) but TYG also enjoyed watching the life histories of taxi drivers, barristers, jockeys, scientists, administrators and activists unwind over time, rising and falling quite unpredictably. This is the first time in a couple of movies that nobody opted out of being interviewed, though several of them still have mixed feelings about them (“The character you see up here in these films is not me.”). There’s also a lot of emphasis on the next generation as many of their children launch careers, go to college or start families of their own. Outstanding/ “That’s right, it turns out I’m more famous than Buzz Aldrin!’
Doc Savage again: THE PIRATE OF THE PACIFIC has Doc’s teaming helping stave off a pirate invasion of the newly independent Luzon Islands (clearly based on the Philippines). Much livelier than The Polar Treasure but rife with pidgin-spouting Chinese stereotypes.
THE RED SKULL is surprisingly good, given that it’s another mundane adventure involving thugs fighting for control of an Arizona hydroelectric project. Even so, it’s well-paced, crammed with action and entertaining deathtraps and probably the best since Land of Terror. Significant additions include Monk’s pretty blonde secretary and Doc’s ability to shatter his glass anesthetic grenades by just flexing his biceps. Both books make use of TV technology that would have been a lot more science-fictional back then.
After persistently failing to find Among Others at the library, I settled for Jo Walton’s HA’ PENNY, an alt.history thriller in a world where Ww II ends in 1941 and Britain slides into homegrown fascism (as in Plot Against America, President Lindbergh has kept America out of the war). This is the second volume in the series, wherein an actress is manipulated by her Communist sister (I’m fairly sure the family is based on the Mitford sisters) into an assassination attempt on Hitler, while a cop (series protagonist) begins piecing together the scope of the plot. The supposedly incendiary chemistry between the actress and one of the terrorists falls flat, but this is otherwise excellent, reminiscent of SS-GB and V for Vendetta in its portrayal of fascist Britain (for a general discussion of Fascism Wins stories, I highly recommend The World Hitler Never Made)
NEW WORLDS OF FANTASY #3 was, as far as I know, the last in the series, with more stories I know than in earlier volumes (Zelazny’s “Stainless Steel Leech” and Borges’ “Funes the Memorious” amoung them) plus Peter Beagle explaining the problems of dating a werewolf, RA Lafferty looking at a tribe of conmen, Fritz Leiber’s weird tale of a man and his imaginary companions (“The Inner Circle”) and Edgar Pangborn’s “Longtooth,” a hunt-the-sasquatch story that didn’t work for me. A good gathering, particularly if you haven’t read as many of them before as I have.
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